Saturday, July 14, 2012


I just ran into a hateful blog -- hateful toward the Winnemem tribe, most specifically the Chief. It is written by anonymous folks who don't use their name. Begrudging. Slanderous. Granny always told me that the Winnemem life is a hard life but still the best life. The Winnemem who are following Granny's vision and way of life have a very tough life. But the accomplishments are many.

In a single generation, they have 100 percent sobriety in the next generation.

In a single generation, their young people are believers in the Winnemem way of life, strong people. Several are going to college. Several others are stepping up to their traditional roles.

I credit these accomplishments which goes against the trend to the Chief Caleen Sisk and her faithfulness to her Aunt, Florence Jone's vision. She brought people back to the Village, living together. The children are surrounded by strong Winnemem loving adults. Now that the young ones are in their 20's and 30's and some becoming parents who also bring up their children around the Village, participating in the ceremonial life, they will also bring strong children into the world.

Caleen has brought back the puberty ceremonies for men and women.

She is a Chief who sacrifices to take care of her people.

She is known in many countries, and respected by the many she meets.

I find the accusation that she runs a cult laughable. If ever, she welcomes input, opinion, another perspective to hers more than she needs. but that is her style.

The articles written against her are based on hate and envy from a comfortable place without the Winnemem wage (zero), the Winnemem daily struggle for human right to ceremony to carry on sacred responsibilities, and being more independant than a village can be. I'm sure sometimes Caleen must wonder how would it be to not be the successional leader for life. I'm sure Marisa has the same reluctance Caleen had while her Aunt was alive to step in front. Being Chief means thinking and caring for everyone and everything. How must it feel to be a leader through elections, have privileges, power, and a payroll to go with it?

Traditional way, the people should take care of the Chief because she takes care of them, but these are modern times, and very few get the concept.

Anyway, I am very proud of Caleen. Granny was kind enough to ask Caleen to continue to take care of me, and she has kept that promise. She didn't have to. She didn't know me that well. But like everything else, she did what Granny said. Brought back the family to the village. Brought back ceremony which lay dormant since before the dam was built. She may be a reluctant doctor, but she does it anyway, and has helped me as well as others who have come for help.

The young ones following her are proof that Caleen is a great leader, leaving the tribe stronger and in a better position. Now, she is fighting for the human right to exist, to simply be Winnemem and this struggle will make it easier for the next generation.

I know there is this ugliness between "family" as there are in many families. How sad that is the case. There is really nothing she can do. I had wished once that good could happen and prayed to see the truth. As if by magic, perhaps because we were on sacred ground, one of them called me over and without any rhyme or reason began to use the word hate, and hate dripped from everything she said, old grivances of when they were children and Caleen ate the best part of the watermelon.


That is a grudge. Well, you should be glad to know that she makes sacrifices each day on behalf of the tribe, the salmon, the Winnemem way of life. She works, prays, and leads with all her heart. Really, it is time to let go of hate and evolve into goodness. Life would be happier for the hateful people. The world needs them. That is the hope, that they can let go of petty childhood grievances and as granny says, "right is right, and wrong is nobody" step up and give.

Addendum: I have vague memories of this newsletter, come to think about it. They wrote about me in a derogatory manner because of my ethnicity coupled with my belief system. But Granny is the one who brought me in. I call myself a nature-a-lized member of the Winnemem Wintu. And they accuse the Chief of being lesbian as if that is a bad thing. The Chief is not lesbian and being lesbian is not wrong, so the writer is also sadly homophobic as well as enthnocentric. As far as I remember I did nothing to this branch of the family whenever they came to visit Granny while I was there except be respectful and friendly. And as for my following the Winnemem way, I don't pretend to be born Winnemem, but I believe in the sacred lands, Granny's legacy, the Chief, the ceremonies, the Sacred Fire. I do not believe in the administrative model the federal government imposes on tribes and see the wisdom of the ancestors that there is successional leadership. I do not believe in casinos as a good way for the Winnemem. Granny says it rots the tribe from the inside out and I believe that. I believe that the Winnemem way is a hard way of life, but it is the best way of life for me. From my preference for the succesional traditional leadership, my pride in the accomplishments of Chief Sisk and my commitment to the sacred responsibilities to sacred land, to water, to the "Nur" which I keep by following her lead, as she follows Granny and the Chiefs before her, I am Winnemem. Those who express such hatred follow another way, and that is fine. They have their elections. They do not accept Caleen as Chief and do things their own way, following their own selves rather than Granny. They have not spent any time, energy or material on helping Caleen through this long arduous journey to justice we are still on but have put her down, sometimes cutting in front of her to spread malicious gossip in an attempt to derail her. Granny said "right is right . . ."

So I will continue to pray for them, that they will settle their hearts and minds and think only the good things, see only the good things, speak only the truth and gain the power and strength to ward off all evil, as well as for their grown children for whom I still have great fondness and hope they can grow without hate and resentment and jealousy. The world needs good strong brave people with the light of life within their hearts and are dedicated to goodness.

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"from Outside the Belly" was also known as "TBAsian" from 2008-2010. Thank you for reading.

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. . . following Earth instead (Rakaia River, site of Salmon Ceremony, photo credit Ruth Koenig)


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Eugene, Oregon
I am a citizen of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. I am a Nikkei descendant sansei (third generation);retired teacher, involved in the Winnemem tribal responsibility to Water, Salmon, and our belief that the Sacred is our Teacher. Working locally for human rights and supporting youth leadership.